Thursday, April 18, 2024

Reporter’s Pocket book: Protecting an anti-war protest in Israel | Israel Battle on Gaza


It’s a crisp sunny Saturday morning as our crew prepares the automobile for the drive from Jerusalem to Haifa to cowl an anti-war rally. Spirits are excessive as I place my digital camera gear within the boot of the automobile. Then we focus on footwear.

Stefanie, our correspondent, has chosen to put on snug white trainers, anticipating the probability of violence to be low. Nevertheless, Luke, whom we’ve employed to supply safety, and I’ve plumped for sturdy boots in case issues get heated.

That is the primary anti-war protest to happen in Israel because it started its struggle on Gaza following the Hamas assaults of October 7.

Since, it hasn’t been simple for the anti-war voice to make itself heard. The organisers of this rally, Hadash, a left-wing socialist social gathering that helps a two-state resolution, had been initially banned from gathering and needed to take their request to the Supreme Court docket.

A protester shouts right into a megaphone on the anti-war rally [Alasdair Brenard/Al Jazeera]

For us, even discovering the protest location proves tough. As we close to the sq. in Haifa, our GPS begins sending us in circles. We lastly park at a mosque the place an area explains that the Israeli military has scrambled the GPS sign in northern Israel resulting from safety issues.

The authorities had been probably eager to let the protest go forward on a Saturday when there’s no public transport, which might make it tougher for folks to achieve the sq..

As we make our option to the sq., we move a big contingent of police in blue uniforms in addition to what appears to be like like border guards in darkish inexperienced. They appear to be having a last-minute pep speak earlier than the protest.

Little doubt they’ve issues as to what may be about to occur. They’re armed with rifles and pistols, and so they have utility automobiles, the infamous “skunk water truck” and officers on horseback.

I’m beginning to really feel vindicated by my selection of footwear.

Protesters gather at the first anti-war protest in Israel since October 7 [Alasdair Brenard/Al Jazeera]
About 500 folks confirmed up on the rally on Saturday [Alasdair Brenard/Al Jazeera]

Round noon, we’re ready for the rally to begin. Police create a hoop of metal across the space, erecting steel barricades and blocking the close by street with vans. They’ve additionally positioned an armed spotter on a roof overlooking the sq..

A neighborhood photographer explains to me that the police are usually not completely satisfied the protest goes forward, that the anti-war message isn’t one they’re prepared to listen to.

“They’re going to impress violence from the demonstrators to show that it shouldn’t have gone forward,” he warns me solemnly.

Our guard is now up. We begin to survey the arrival protesters for indicators of bother or attainable counter-protesters which will have been planted to attempt to whip up confrontations.

Luke spots a person reaching into his interior jacket pocket in a really suspicious method. The person glances round and pulls out… a packet of cigarettes. False alarm, however you’ll be able to’t be too cautious.

Extra folks begin to present up – about 500, a lot of them younger – and a few aren’t sporting sneakers. I can’t assist however really feel that the police could have overestimated the hazard posed by this explicit group of protesters.

They’re banging drums, shouting slogans by means of loudspeakers and giving speeches on the significance of reconciliation and the failure of struggle to carry lasting safety.

Protesters gather at the first anti-war protest in Israel since October 7 [Alasdair Brenard/Al Jazeera]
Protesters wave flags and beat drums [Alasdair Brenard/Al Jazeera]

It’s refreshing to listen to another message in Israel and to see Israelis and Palestinian Israelis standing collectively in hope for a peaceable future.

One of many audio system, Maoz Inon, whose mother and father had been killed by Hamas fighters throughout Hamas’s assaults on October 7, speaks of forgiveness: “My father cultivated the land. He grew wheat and he additionally introduced me as much as imagine in future.

“My message to the world is don’t select a aspect, Israeli or Palestine, however please select humanity.”

In the meantime, police have gotten more and more twitchy. They swoop in on the group and pluck a person from it, then lead him away to a close-by car because the protesters, police and press surge backwards and forwards within the confusion.

Fortuitously, the state of affairs doesn’t escalate and issues quickly settle down.

However there are different occasions. At one level, whereas I’m filming Stefanie speaking to the digital camera, a Palestinian-Israeli man and his teenage daughter strategy us. He apologises for interrupting us earlier than telling us he’d been shoved within the again by a police officer whereas watching the rally. He’s upset and annoyed, and feels focused for merely displaying up on the rally.

Close to the top of the protest, the police make one other transfer. This time, the supply of their ire is a paper mâché fighter airplane with cardboard bombs dangling beneath. It’s a short battle earlier than the mannequin airplane is snatched away.

Regardless of the airplane incident, the protesters stay upbeat.

When the rally finishes and folks start to file off in several instructions,  Stefanie stays a little bit longer to speak with Maoz. In the meantime, a counter-protester movies him after which tries to begin arguments with the those who stay.

For now, these protesting right here immediately are within the minority. In accordance with current polls, the vast majority of Israelis nonetheless assist the struggle in Gaza.

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